You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Questions over Prince's choice of doctor

Associated Press Associated Press 11/05/2016 Kevin Burbach

If Prince was seeking help for a problem with prescription drugs, it would make sense for him to turn to a California addiction specialist known for new ideas on treatment. Less clear is why he sought care from a local family care physician with an unassuming resume who met with Prince twice in the weeks before his death and prescribed him unknown medications.

The day Prince died, he was scheduled to meet with the son of Dr Howard Kornfeld, the California specialist in addiction treatment and pain management. But in the weeks before Prince's April 21 death, he met twice with Dr Michael Todd Schulenberg, who worked at a Minnetonka clinic a few kilometres from Prince's Paisley Park studio and home, according to search warrant documents released on Tuesday.

Prince's cause of death is still unknown, as the autopsy results haven't been released. But a law enforcement official has told The Associated Press that investigators are looking into whether he died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks before his death. The official has been briefed on the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorised to speak to the media.

Investigators interviewed Schulenberg the day Prince died and searched a suburban Minneapolis hospital that employed him. The warrant documents didn't specify what medications were prescribed or whether Prince took them.

It remains unclear why Prince, a world-famous musician worth millions, would seek the help of an experienced but seemingly ordinary local physician instead of first turning to world-class health care. The Star Tribune, citing a source with knowledge of the investigation, previously reported that Prince had been receiving treatment for withdrawal symptoms from a doctor who previously worked with Prince's longtime friend Kirk Johnson.

Johnson's lawyer, F Clayton Tyler, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking to confirm that Johnson and Prince shared Schulenberg as a doctor.

Schulenberg, 46, worked for North Memorial Medical Center until at least the day of Prince's death, but he has since left the job. Lesa Bader, a spokeswoman for the health care system, said North Memorial's personnel records were private and she couldn't comment on why Schulenberg no longer works there.

According to the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice website, Schulenberg has not been subjected to any disciplinary or corrective action in Minnesota or other states. He's a 1995 graduate of the Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine. His license status is listed as active. It expires October 31 of this year.

The Ridgeview Medical Center, where Schulenberg was once part of the "leadership group", said Schulenberg specialised in family medicine and obstetrics, and worked demanding hours.

According to the search warrant revealed on Tuesday, Schulenberg had seen Prince twice before his death, on April 7 and April 20, which was the day before he died. Schulenberg told investigators he came upon the death scene at Paisley Park while dropping off some unspecified test results for Prince on April 21.

The day before he died, representatives for Prince reached out to Howard Kornfeld seeking help for the musician, William Mauzy, a lawyer for the California doctor, said last week. Kornfeld couldn't immediately fly to Minnesota to meet with Prince, so he sent his son Andrew that night instead, he said.

Andrew Kornfeld had a small amount of the prescription drug buprenorphine and planned to give it to a Minnesota doctor who was scheduled to see Prince the next morning, said Mauzy, who wouldn't disclose the doctor's name. Instead, Andrew was among three people at Paisley Park when Prince was found unresponsive, and it was he who called 911.

Schulenberg's name doesn't appear on a list of Minnesota doctors authorised to treat opioid dependency with the buprenorphine, according to a database maintained by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The drug, which is also known by its brand name Suboxone, helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. To be certified, doctors are required to undergo an eight-hour training course in addiction medicine.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon